Health Highlights: March 26, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Rockland County, N.Y., Declares Start of Emergency During Measles Outbreak

In an effort to combat New York State's largest measles outbreak in decades, Rockland County will declare a state of emergency and ban minors who aren't vaccinated against the contagious disease from public places.

The declaration in the suburb of New York City takes effect at midnight Tuesday and expires in 30 days, The New York Times reported.

Rockland County, with a population of more than 300,000 people, has had 153 confirmed measles cases since October 2018, according to county spokesman John Lyon. Of those, 48 have occurred in 2019.

The measles outbreak in New York State began last fall and has so far mostly affected ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County and New York City, where vaccination rates tend to be lower and anti-vaccination misinformation is more widespread, public health officials have said, The Times reported.

In December, Rockland County barred unvaccinated children from schools with low vaccination rates.

In New York City, health officials have issued an emergency health measure ordering schools in certain ZIP codes to bar unvaccinated students from attending classes, The Times reported.


Purdue Pharma Reaches $270 Million Settlement With Oklahoma Over OxyContin

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma over the prescription painkiller's role in the opioid addiction epidemic, officials said Tuesday.

The terms of the agreement will be announced by the state's attorney general at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma has made billions from OxyContin but faces more than 1,000 lawsuits from state and local governments seeking to hold the company responsible for the opioid crisis that resulted in 48,000 deaths nationwide in 2017 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The settlement with Oklahoma was announced after the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from the drug maker to delay the start of the state's trial in May.

A lawyer suing Purdue on behalf of local governments nationwide hailed the settlement.

"That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem," Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, told the AP. "Hopefully, this is the first of many."

Sandy Coats, an attorney for Purdue Pharma, did not immediately return a call seeking comment, the AP reported.


$775 Million Settlement Reached in Xarelto Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson and Bayer Co. will pay $775 million to settle lawsuits involving the blood thinner Xarelto, the companies said Monday.

The companies jointly sell the drug and the settlement will be split evenly between them, The New York Times reported.

Neither company admitted liability.

The settlement resolves state and federal lawsuits by patients who said the companies failed to warn about the risk of potentially fatal bleeding episodes when taking the drug, The Times reported.


U.S. Measles Cases Hit 314 This Year

There have been at least 314 reported cases of measles in the United States so far this year, new government data shows.

That's 46 more than last week and includes cases reported by state health departments to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through March 21, CNN reported Monday.

The number of cases so far this year is just 58 fewer than the 372 cases reported nationwide for all of last year. That was the second-highest number in two decades.

The CDC said that the number of states with reported measles cases is the same as last week, 15: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that was eliminated in the United States in 2000. But it was reintroduced to the country by unvaccinated or undervaccinated people who came from or visited countries where the highly contagious disease is still circulating, CNN reported.

Anti-vaccination groups have helped fuel rising rates of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, health officials say.

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